When people have babies they announce it by saying “I’ve never known love until now” or “Now there is a hole filled in my heart that I never knew existed!” Other people then “like” the new baby photos and leave comments about how precious the tiny newborn is and about how “in love” both parents should be. I think that’s part of the reason becoming a parent is so hard… the world expects you to be in love from the first moment. And you know, a lot of new parents probably are. This post isn’t for those parents. It’s for the rest of us…
Becoming a parent is hard. Let me repeat — it’s HARD! For me, it was 42 weeks of pregnancy and 47 hours of labor followed by an emergency c-section HARD. But for other women it is hard in different ways. And when it was over — when little Holland was out and on my chest breastfeeding for the first time — I was exhausted. It’s hard to fall in love when you are exhausted.
I stayed exhausted for days. My physical recovery involved a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. My milk did not come in for five days because of the c-section. Holland screamed, she refused to be swaddled and she nursed around the clock. I barely slept and when I did, I was usually awoken by lingering c-section pain. Those first days in the hospital are a blur to me. I remember sending Holland away to the nursery on our last night there in tears. She was starving. I had no milk for her. I was crying and was exhausted. I felt like a failure. I begged the nurses to just give her enough formula to make her feel better. Why couldn’t I feed my baby? Why couldn’t I make her sleep? Why did I decide to do this again?
Coming home from the hospital was another ordeal. Suddenly I had a newborn and there weren’t any nurses around to tell me that I was doing an okay job at the whole parenting thing. Everyone kept telling me how wonderful it was to be a parent… how my love for her should rival my love for anything else. But when I looked into her face, I didn’t feel it. I felt tired. I constantly wondered if I was doing enough or whether I was screwing the whole thing up.
Am I changing her diaper enough? Is she pooping enough? Is she getting enough milk? Maybe I should pump again. Should I make another appointment with the lactation consultant? Are they supposed to cry that much? Why isn’t she sleeping? Dear God… WHY ISN’T SHE SLEEPING?
I vividly recall changing her diaper one night and saying to her as she coo’ed: “You are cute. You are. You know kid, I really, really hope that I love you someday soon.” I felt like a failure for uttering those words. What kind of new mother doesn’t instantly love her baby? Turns out — there are quite a lot of us.
Those first few weeks can be brutal. You’re exhausted. You’re sore. You’re emotional. Sometimes, depending on how your birth happened, you are even angry. Have you ever tried falling in love when you are any of those things?
I fell in love with Adam when it was cold outside. It was winter and I recall first dates that ended with long hugs and kisses bundled up in coats and scarves. We would laugh, talk and share tiny pieces of ourselves with each other. Eventually, I realized that I had shared enough of my soul and knew enough about his to know that I loved him and wanted to be with him forever.
I fell in love with Holland weeks after her birth when it was cold outside. It was winter and we’d wake up before the sun and I’d nurse her while also nursing a mug of hot tea. We’d watch the morning news and play with brightly colored toys. I’d rock her to sleep as I counted her ten little fingers and ten little toes over and over again. Eventually, I realized that this child… this piece of me… was the greatest gift I had even been given. She was perfect and my love for her was greater than I could ever realize.
The moral of this rambling story is that it is perfectly okay to not love your baby from the moment you lock eyes. Looking back, I think a part of me always loved Holland, though at the time, that part of me was just too tired, scared, and hormonal to realize it. For weeks, I felt like a failure for not having that instant mother/child relationship I’d seen plastered on Facebook and Instagram. Now, I realize that connection doesn’t happen immediately for everyone and that’s okay. It’s normal.
Pregnancy is hard. Birth is hard. Parenting is hard.